Every now and then I’ll do a post on some of my favorite songs from specific bands such as Nirvana, Radiohead or Sunny Day Real Estate. I’ve even done a post on some of my favorite “Emo” albums. While I’ve frequently done these types of posts, I haven’t done a post about what songs I’m listening to a particular moment. So, today, I want to share a few of the songs I’ve been listening to a lot over the past year or so and why I keep them playing them constantly on my walks or in the car.
The Muslims “Blink 9–11 (What’s My Race Again?)”
Around a year ago, I was looking online for a new album to order on vinyl. I checked out Epitaph’s website to see what punk music I had been missing, and I came across The Muslims, a Black and Brown, queer, Muslim band from Durham, NC, and their latest album Fuck These Fuckin’ Fascists. I didn’t end up buying any albums that day, but I did listen to the album, again and again and again. Since then, it’s one of the albums I play at least once every week because it speaks to this moment and the importance of fighting back against the rise of fascism and the rhetoric of fear that permeates our existence. I plan to write about this album, and more, for another project in the near future, so stay tuned for that.
Right now, though, I want to point out “Blink 9–11 (What’s My Race Again?),” a song from their album Gentrified Chicken which debuted in April 2020. It’s obvious, even before hearing the song, that it references Blink 182’s “What’s My Age Again,” a pop punk mainstay since its release in 1999 that focuses on that period between adolescence and adulthood and which could be thought of as a white, male anthem for continued indifference to anything but ones self. The Muslims’ song musically pulls from Blink 182’s song, and it flips “What’s My Age Again?” on its head, focusing on racial profiling and its impacts. In the verses, QADR sings about being profiled at a bar and on the way home getting pulled over by a cop due to being Black. The first two sing-song choruses drive the racist actions of the bouncer at the bar and the cop home as the band sings harmoniously, “That’s about the time it fuckin’ dawned on me, Nobody loves you when you’re black and free.” The last chorus shifts this up as they sing, “I can not live in white supremacy, and I should really mug white people, that’s what they expect of me, I’m sure they’ll blame my race.”
The entire song, along with other songs on the album such as “Blame It On Mohammad,” point out the ways that white supremacy maintains control, not just through overtly racist, islamophobic, and xenophobic actions but through the perpetuation of fear and the construction of stereotypes. Along with all of this, The Muslims remind me that the South, for all the rhetoric that paints the region as backwards, has resistance. It has always had resistance: Pauli Murray, Lillian Smith, Martin Luther King, Jr., Omar Ibn Said . . . I think that is one of the reasons I’ve really latched on to The Muslims, apart from their truthfulness, biting satire, and punk rock musicality.
Propaganda “We No Entiende”
I’ve listened to Propaganda for years now, really starting with Crooked. Over the past few years, he’s released a book and a few eps. “We No Entiende” appears on Terrafrom: The People EP from March 2021, and it speaks, like The Muslims, to continued police brutality, protests, racism, and the pandemic. Propaganda’s verses focus on the protests of 2020, specifically pointing out that the “riots” are, as King put it, “the voice of the unheard.” Propaganda raps, “words of unheard, slang of broken, sound of hopeless” and peaceful protests being met with police and tear gas. He references Kyle Rittenhouse and others who murdered and/or attacked protestors and didn’t face charges. He points out, too, like The Muslims do, that whites shouldn’t be surprised about any of this because while whites argue for “law and order” and refuse to teach accurate history people suffer. So, what should these individuals do? That’s Propaganda’s question as people say, “No entiende” (don’t understand).
Propaganda starts the second verse by rapping, “It feel like real life a TikTok loop, Control C-V another Dylann Roof.” Here, I think about The Muslims “Blame It on Mohammad” where they point out that acts of terrorism from supermarket shootings in El Paso and Buffalo to school shootings and elsewhere occur at the hands of white Americans, not at the hands of Muslims. Propaganda notes that these acts just copy/paste Dylann Roof’s actions. Remember, the Christchurch terrorist referenced Roof and the Buffalo shooter referenced the Christchurch terrorist, thus forming a “TikTok loop” that gets copy and pasted onto another act of terrorism.
For verse three, Swoope continues Propaganda’s threads, and his verse coalesces around Christian fascism and the pandemic as he raps about the intersections between policing and Christian fascism. While people in the street demand answers, “Chief not stressing ’cause preachers in pandering dog whistles to the tune of CC+M.” Swoope references here contemporary christian music (CCM), and its failure, along with the pastors in the pulpits, to address social injustice and other issues. Instead, they peddle fear, leading their congregations into Christian fascism in the process. Swoope concludes all of this by pointing out that Jesus wasn’t white and if “Christians” can’t see the treatment Black and marginalized individuals in relation to Jesus’ teachings, then they don’t realize that “Christ died in the blackest way possible, with his hands up and his momma there watchin’ him,” a reference to multiple individuals murdered through racial violence.
These are not the only songs I’ve been listening to a lot lately. I’ve been digging back in to older punk such as the Dead Kennedys or Reagan Youth. I’ve been continually listening to He Is Legend’s album White Bat, in preparation for their upcoming album Endless Hallway. I’ve been playing Every Time I Die’s Radical, some Church Clothes from Lecrae, dusting off some Dessa, falling back into Nirvana, and my usual MewithoutYou and Five Iron Frenzy, among others. Listening to these artists and more reminds me, every day, of the power of music to enact change, to, like literature and other forms of art, cause individuals to stop and think about the world, to have listeners examine themselves and to see the world from other perspectives. This is the power of art, and when individuals mindlessly consume it, solely for the beat or music, then they sometimes miss the point.
What are some of the songs or albums you’ve been listening to a lot lately? Let me know in the comments below, and make sure to follow me on twitter @silaslapham.